Luke Fletcher’s first five wicket haul for the county and half centuries from Paul Franks and Andre Adams were the key contributions for Nottinghamshire on a rain-interrupted third day of their LV= County Championship match against Lancashire at Trent Bridge.
Fletcher polished off the final two wickets of the visitors’ first innings before his side replied with a second innings score of 216 and an overall lead of 236. For the second time in the match Sajid Mahmood led the Lancashire attack, with five wickets, whilst Kyle Hogg claimed four.
Chasing 237 to win, Lancs reached 32 without loss at stumps.
“I’ve been waiting to get a five wicket haul for a while now”, said Fletcher afterwards.
“It’s nice to get there at last. I’ve been on four a number of times and then had catches go down but it was important to the team to get those two wickets cheaply this morning.”
Notts need to bowl their opponents out for a second time on the final day and Fletcher believes that his side has a good chance of achieving their goal.
“It’s not a flat wicket that doesn’t give you a chance.” he said.
“There’s lots of bounce bowling from the pavilion end and there’s plenty of movement coming from the other end. If we can consistently put the ball in good areas we are still very much in this game.”
Despite heavy overnight rain play began on time with Mahmood and Hogg continuing their batting exploits to begin with, resuming from their overnight score of 293-8. They tip-toed their way towards a third batting point but on 299 Luke Fletcher trapped Hogg in his crease with a full-length delivery bowled from around the wicket.
The stand of 56 for the ninth wicket had been pivotal in getting Lancashire back towards parity but they still needed a single for the extra point and Gary Keedy immediately obliged.
Mahmood pulled Fletcher for four to go to 46 but then failed to pull off an expansive drive and gave David Hussey his third slip catch of the contest. With figures of 5-82 the bowler had good reason to celebrate his first five-wicket haul at first team level and his team-mates were quick to offer their congratulations.
Batting again, with a first inning lead of 20, Notts were soon put under pressure by Lancashire’s new ball bowlers. Neil Edwards was first to go without scoring, thrusting bat and pad forward at Mahmood, he looked astounded to be given out lbw by umpire Lloyds in just the second over.
A sharp low catch at point by Croft accounted for Alex Hales (1) and when Samit Patel (8) and David Hussey (13) both also fell cheaply the home side were in disarray at 40-4.
Only a resolute stand between Riki Wessels and Steven Mullaney halted the slide before lunch but both fell immediately upon the resumption.
Kyle Hogg’s first delivery after the re-start struck Mullaney (18) in front of his stumps. Chris Read got off the mark with a single and then Wessels (35) tickled one down the leg-side and was sent on his way.
Hogg made it three wickets in seven deliveries when he then got Read (2) lbw at the start of the next over but before any further damage could be done to the Nottinghamshire card, the rain swept in from the west and sent the players scurrying for the pavilion.
After a stoppage of an hour and ten minutes Notts began again, facing an uphill task to avoid their fourth defeat in a row. Within a few moments spirits had been lifted, however, as Andre Adams struck maximums into the New Stand (off Hogg) and then the Tavern Stand (off Mahmood).
With Lancashire then trying to defend the boundary by putting as many as eight fielders on the ropes, the Kiwi helped himself to a steady succession of singles as he and Paul Franks kept the board ticking over.
The lead continued to stretch as the batsmen kept pace with each other to bring up a century stand as Maharoof went for 22 from one over.
From the final ball before tea Franks stroked Keedy to mid off to bring up his second half century of the match (64 balls 6 x 4).
Typically, Adams went to his fourth 50 of the summer with another maximum, pulling Mahmood away fine into the Radcliffe Road Stand but then another legside delivery proved to be his undoing, with a faint tickle being taken by the ‘keeper. Adams’ 52 had come from 51 balls (5 x 4 3 x 6).
A rain delay of around an hour then followed. The re-start at 5.45pm quickly brought a conclusion to the Notts innings as Franks uncharacteristically charged at Gary Keedy and was stumped for 57 and then Fletcher lofted to extra cover, to give Mahmood his second five wicket bag of the match.
In the thirteen overs that remained at the end of the day Notts failed to pick up a wicket yet were given plenty of encouragement by the variable bounce which twice caused Stephen Moore to receive treatment after being struck. When play finished at five to seven Lancashire had made 32-0, still needing a further 205.